Though he is not alive to see his name cleared, a mentally challenged man who was falsely convicted of a decades-old Colorado sex assault and murder is now being recognized as the innocent man that he was. Former Denver district attorney and now outgoing governor Bill Ritter formally issued a pardon to the victim who died at the hands of old, cold laws.
In 1939, Joe Arridy was executed in a Colorado gas chamber for a crime that he did not commit. The state found him guilty of the rape and murder of a teen girl and sentenced him to death. His alleged guilt was reportedly based on his confession to the crime, but sources claim that it was a “coerced confession” coming from a man who was severely mentally disabled.
Reuters reports that Arridy had an IQ of 46 and describes him as childlike. He supposedly never fully understood what was going on regarding the case, even though his very life was riding on its outcome. Not only did the court find Arridy guilty of the violent crime, but it sentenced him to death despite his mental state. Today, mentally disabled people are not given the death penalty.
After Arridy’s confession, another man confessed to the 1936 rape and murder of the teenage girl. This person was of sound and healthy mind and indicated that Arridy was not involved. He was also convicted of executed for the crime, but the system still did not see that as enough reason to clear Arridy’s spoiled name.
Thankfully, Ritter has done what’s possible to make up for the past’s mistakes but notes the heartbreaking reality of the situation: “Pardoning Arridy cannot undo this tragic event in Colorado history.”
Reuters: “Colorado governor pardons man executed for murder in 1939,” 7 Jan. 2010